On Thursday night I had the privilege of being with the family and friends of 23 year old Liam McMullen in Broadgreen Hospital as they struggled with the shock of hearing that he was not going to recover from surgery and as they cared for him and each other with great love, tenderness and respect during his final hours in this life and commended him to the even greater love and care of God our Father. After a few hours rest on Friday morning I went into our school, where Liam’s Mum works, to comfort, and be comforted by, that community and then prayed at Mass with our weekday congregation for Liam and all who suffer through bereavement.
The rest of Friday involved meetings with the people who maintain our communication systems, with a group of priests, with some colleagues working on a formation programme, and then with our new baptism team. In the evening, as I was reflecting with a friend, after speaking again with Liam’s family, I received several messages which warmed my heart. Here are some of the things that were said about the life and ministry of a parish priest.
When you got up in the morning you wouldn’t have a clue what the Lord was going to ask you to do, but you did it. You were there. You are a rock and inspiration to us all. You are a source of spiritual guidance, giving others support when they need it. You hear our confessions and help to make our hearts lighter. You share the happiest moments as you bless and baptise our children and join couples in marriage. You also have the difficult role in consoling those who have to deal with terrible losses and sharing our grief. We want to thank you for your continuous and heartfelt support and to let you know that as colleagues, community and friends we are here to offer the same to you. Many, many prayers were and are being said for you and for all you minister to. God bless you and keep you strong.
I love being your parish priest. I know that my ministry is both enriched and limited by my human strengths and weaknesses and I know that I don’t do it alone and couldn’t do it all without the support that you give to me and to each other at so many levels. I go on holiday this weekend with a heart full of shared sorrows and joys but also full of thanksgiving for the privilege of serving you and knowing that you will continue to care for Liam’s family and for all who are suffering in any way.